July 28, 2010

Cameron Plays Bad Cop For Obama

He may have wanted to call Washington for advice on how to play both good and bad cop to different states. Then again, the US position towards India and Pakistan parallels Britain's. In Bangalore, India to advance security and economic ties, UK Prime Minister David Cameron agreed for the first time to export nuclear technology to India.

"I want to take the relationship between India and Britain to the next level,” he said in a speech at the headquarters of Infosys. “I want to make it stronger, wider and deeper.”

Cameron had a very different message for Pakistan.

Attempting to minimize the fallout, he appeared to take up President Barack Obama’s dirty work when telling reporters, "We should be very, very clear with Pakistan that we want to see a strong, stable and democratic Pakistan. But we cannot tolerate in any sense the idea that this country is allowed to look both ways and is able, in any way, to promote the export of terror whether to India, whether to Afghanistan or to anywhere else in the world."

Cameron's disclaimer wasn’t nearly enough. Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan's high commissioner in London, told Al Jazeera that he had received hundreds of angry calls from British and national Pakistanis offering "a very sharp reaction" to Cameron's comments. Hasan expects, "Cameron will review his statement, clarify his position, because we need to be supported not criticized for what we are doing.”

The latest Wikileaks have obviously jammed America and Pakistan into an embarrassing corner. In terms of America, US public support is plunging and Afghan officials are demanded more action against Islamabad, now at fresh odds with Washington. Pakistan has nowhere to run, with ISI’s connection to the Afghan Taliban in plain view and India breathing down its neck.

Each have legitimate grievances, thus why all parties are caught in a rancor is understandable. The solution to this equation - specifically ending Pakistan’s support for the Afghan Taliban - is by no means readily available. But eliminating possibilities is. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Michael Mullen tried to charm Pakistanis before giving orders, only for their hammer and anvil routine to shine through.

Pakistanis are too accustomed to the West’s games. Cameron ran into a brick wall before opening his mouth.

The means to changing Pakistan’s behavior is both extremely simple and impossibly complex: change US policy. The current policy feeds Pakistan with a few domestic carrots while ignoring its external threats. Military and economic aid don’t encourage Pakistan to break from the Taliban when Islamabad views America’s war in Afghanistan, for a variety of reasons besides the ISI, as destabilizing and futile.

America handcuff’s Pakistan’s options. Islamabad needs leverage on the Taliban if US troops withdraw in the near future, and it must keep that leverage if Washington hangs around for a few more years before pulling the plug. Try as US officials do, they will not convince the ISI that Mullah Omar and the Haqqanis will some day turn on them. Although Pakistan’s public is having a harder time choosing sides on the ISI, America’s presence in Afghanistan serves as a natural buffer for Islamabad so long as President Barack Obama’s aimless surge continues.

But if there was a strategy for cutting the ISI’s strings to the Taliban and Kashmir separatist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), reducing the glare of pro-Indian bias appears the best bet.

Cameron’s mere image was totally wrong; bashing Pakistan from India is a faux pas. Favoring India over Pakistan is the substantive error. Though Cameron expressed his desire to see both grow as strong democracies, a difference in tone is clear. Like America, Britain wants a stable Pakistan so that it may function as a reliable proxy state. They want India to boost each other's economies and, in America’s case, buffer China. America seeks to block a civil nuclear agreement with Pakistan and China, while Britain is opening its technology to India.

India is treated as an equal while Pakistan is not. The Nation may be Pakistan’s most nationalistic paper, but it sums up how many Pakistanis feel:
“If anyone doubted the working of the Indo-US nexus in Afghanistan then Special Envoy Holbrooke’s recent interview on CNN should clear the air on this count once and for all. According to him, while the US is seeking to “reduce the gap” between Pakistan and Afghanistan, it keeps in mind the strategic interests of India and other regional neighbours. Now the only other regional neighbours of both Pakistan and Afghanistan are Iran and China. The US is hardly sensitive to Iranian interests given how it is seeking to destabilize the regime there through the regional neighborhood. As for China, the US is seeking India as a balancer so it would hardly push Chinese strategic interests forward. Clearly, Holbrooke’s concern is primarily with India, even though India shares no border with Afghanistan and has ambitions that include undermining Pakistan.”
And nowhere is this more evident than in Kashmir: “Even more damaging has been the recent statement from the US State Department declaring Indian atrocities in Occupied Kashmir as being an internal matter of the Indian state - despite UNSC resolutions to the contrary.”

The final result singles out Pakistan when America and India are also believed to be playing double games in the region. No amount of US aid will conceal this inequality. Halting support to proxy insurgents is no less dangerous than ceding regional hegemony in Kashmir, and to a lesser extent Afghanistan, to India. The possibility could increase militant, anti-US/Indian sentiment.

While on the reverse side India may feel put off, the West's relationship is theoretically strong enough to appease New Delhi while also broaching Kashmir. If not the West and India's relationship is more tenuous than they let on. America argues that its policy towards Pakistan is changing, but nothing outside of the state suggests so.

Washington and London show every indication of preserving the status quo except for the vilified ISI, the only scapegoat they have left for Afghanistan’s drift.


  1. An American understands, I am shocked. So much venom towards Pakistan. What are we supposed to do? Most Pakistanis don’t like Taliban but we arent slaves. The world is blind that US and India play double games, but India doesn’t own Kashmir and Afghanistan. Kashmiris want a state. Cameron has no clue.

  2. He's not a fast learner either.